Orgasm study's stimulating findings
18 September 2006
A major study of the sexual encounters of heterosexual men and women has shed new light on the relationship between sexual repertoire and orgasm.
The Australian Study of Health and Relationships, a national telephone survey of sexual behaviour conducted by researchers from the University of Sydney, University of New South Wales, La Trobe University and University of Sussex (UK), surveyed more than 19,000 Australians between the ages of 16 to 59.
Results from the survey, which are published in the most recent issue of the Journal of Sex Research, show that vaginal intercourse was the most common practice, engaged in by 95 per cent of respondents. In about three quarters of encounters, the respondent received manual sex, with around a quarter receiving oral sex.
Analyses of the survey also showed that both men and women were more likely to have an orgasm if they engaged in a greater number of sexual practices, with orgasms more likely in encounters in which five practices were experienced (ie vaginal+fellatio+cunnilingus+manual (man)+manual (woman)).
The researchers also found that it is unusual for a man not to have an orgasm when he had sex with a woman: only 5.2 per cent of men did not reach orgasm at their last heterosexual encounter. It is much more common for women, 31.1 per cent of whom did not reach orgasm.
One possible explanation for the discrepancy between male and female experience of orgasm in partnered encounters is that men want sex more often than women, with the result that in established couples, some of the sexual interactions are what women popularly call "freebies".
Commenting on the research, Associate Professor Chris Rissel, of the University's School of Public Health co-author of the paper, said: 'Much of the research on female difficulties with orgasm or with heterosexual sex in general has focussed more on indirect causes, such as upbringing, attitudes, religion, marital adjustment, anxiety, previous traumatic experience, rather than proximal causes, such as the form of stimulation received.
'Recent attempts have been made to medicalise women's sexual difficulties to create a market for "pink Viagra". However, our findings suggest that the proximal cause-the sexual stimulation delivered to women in the typical, rigidly scripted heterosexual interaction - has more to do with whether they reach orgasm (and we suspect, enjoy sex) than with more obscure and distant causes,' said Associate Professor Rissel.
Further findings from The Australian Study of Health and Relationships are explored in Doing It Down Under: The Sexual Lives of Australians (Allen and Unwin, 2005) co-authored by Professor Rissel and Dr Juliet Richters from UNSW.
Contact: Jake O'Shaughnessy
Phone: +61 2 9351 4312 or 0421 617 86